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Gingrich unofficially concedes GOP race, calls on conservatives to back Romney

Newt Gingrich
Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speak in Cramerton, N.C., Wednesday, April 25, 2012. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

(CBS News)

Updated 10:30 a.m. ET

CRAMERTON, N.C. - Newt Gingrich on Wednesday unofficially conceded the Republican presidential race to Mitt Romney, calling on conservatives to unite behind the presumptive nominee.

Following Romney's clean sweep of all five primaries on Tuesday - including Delaware, where Gingrich had staked the remainder of his tattered campaign - the former House speaker said in a speech to the Gaston County GOP that "it's pretty clear Governor Romney is going to be the nominee."

"I think you have to at some point be honest with what's happening in the real world, as opposed to what you'd like to have happened," Gingrich said. "Governor Romney had a very good day yesterday. He got 67 [percent] in one state, and he got 63 in other, 62 in another. Now you have to give him some credit. I mean this guy's worked six years, put together a big machine, and has put together a serious campaign.

"I think obviously that I would be a better candidate, but the objective fact is the voters didn't think that," Gingrich said. "And I also think it's very, very important that we be unified."

Gingrich said he will continue to campaign in North Carolina through the week "as a citizen," and that "we're working out the details of our transition and we'll have information for the press in the next couple of days."

Confronted by a gaggle of shouting reporters in the rope line afterward, Gingrich told them "you got enough this morning" and directed them to his spokesman, R.C. Hammond. When CBS News/National Journal contacted Hammond, he answered then hung up when asked if Gingrich was suspending his campaign.

Until he officially suspends his campaign, Gingrich will presumably maintain his U.S. Secret Service detail, which is costing taxpayers roughly $44,000 per day but allows him security that's cost-free to the campaign. On Friday, he reported being $4.3 million in debt - a casualty he attributes to trying to compete with Romney in Florida. Gingrich won only two states during the primary season, South Carolina and his home state of Georgia.

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